Billionaire Ken Langone: Free medical school tuition is my way of sharing the American dream

  • Ken Langone says he and his wife, Elaine, are helping give medical students free tuition as a way of sharing the American dream.
  • "I think everything you can do to continue to be a great country, we all win," he says.
  • NYU announced it will offer free tuition for every student attending its medical school.

Billionaire Ken Langone told CNBC on Wednesday that he and his wife, Elaine, are helping give medical students free tuition as a way of sharing the American dream.

New York University announced earlier this month that it will offer free tuition for every student attending its medical school. The co-founder of Home Depot and chair of the board of trustees of the NYU Langone Medical Center, and his wife, donated $100 million to help fund the tuition.

Langone, a businessman and philanthropist, said Wednesday that in the next 15 years there will be a critical shortage of doctors, particularly in primary care, pediatrics and OB-GYN. Langone added these are areas of medicine that don't pay well but are important.

"If you look at my life and Elaine and you look at the opportunities we've had and you look at where we are, there's no place on this Earth better than America," Langone said in a "Power Lunch" interview. "I think everything you can do to continue to be a great country, we all win."

The average medical school debt increased from around $160,000 in 2010 to about $179,000 in 2016, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association.

The NYU plan waives tuition of around $55,000. It does not cover room and board fees.

Langone said that will provide medical students with some relief during a very challenging time.

He said he hopes other medical schools will join NYU's effort.

"We didn't do this to stimulate more applications," Langone, who is worth $3.6 billion, according to Forbes, said. "We think we're giving them a good start in life to leave here debt free. And we think it's the right thing to do."